So You Want to Learn Yoga, Part 2: 12 Tips for Your First Class

Congratulations, you’re starting your yoga journey! These 12 tips will help you prepare and know what to expect with your first class:

1) Wear comfortable clothing. You don’t need anything fancy for yoga. Just comfortable, stretchy bottoms and a fitted top (so it doesn’t ride up during certain poses). Layering with a long sleeve tee or light jacket allows you to adjust your clothing as your body temperature rises during class. If you’re practicing hot yoga, minimal clothing (shorts and strappy tops) will be most comfortable.

2) Remove shoes and socks at the studio. Yoga is best done barefoot. This allows for greater stability in the poses and an opportunity to strengthen and flex the feet.

3) Use a sticky mat. The studio may have mats available for use (sometimes with a rental fee) or for sale. Ideally bring a mat of your own that meets your needs for comfort, stickiness, and size. Mats are readily available for as little as $5 with higher performance mats costing well over $100. It’s fine to start with a low end model and upgrade as you see fit.

4) Allow two hours after meals before practice. Yoga is best done on an empty stomach. Certain poses can put pressure on a full belly causing discomfort. If a two-hour window leaves you light-headed, try a small serving of fruit, juice or yogurt before class.

5) Come to class hydrated. Sip, don’t guzzle, water during class if needed. Drink plenty of water after class.

6) Arrive early to class. If you haven’t signed up online, you’ll need a few minutes to get set up with the studio and take care of any fees and paperwork. Arriving a few minutes before class starts gives you time to find a spot, set up your mat, stow away your personal belongings, and use the restroom.

7) Alert the teacher about any medical conditions. Tell the teacher before class so he or she can properly guide you with specific modifications during the practice. Arriving early to class will enable you to speak to the teacher privately about any health issues.

8) Be open-minded. Your first yoga class may be unlike any other wellness class you’ve taken. It will likely include centering and mindfulness exercises. There may even be chanting. Go with the flow. Be receptive to these types of experiences. The benefits may surprise you.

9) Honor your body. There’s a difference between a pose that challenges the body and one that hurts. If something doesn’t feel right, work with the teacher to find variations for the pose.

10) Watch and listen.   It’s okay to hang back and simply take in what’s going on in the class from time to time. Be sure to take cues from the teacher. Listen carefully for the instructions on getting in and out of poses.

11) Be ready for assistance. Your yoga teacher will verbally explain how to move throughout the practice. She will also provide physical assists to students from time to time. Hands-on-instruction is helpful for learning proper alignment and encouraging deeper opening in a pose.

12) Stay positive. Resist the tendency to compare yourself to what others are doing. Everyone is on their own path and each body is unique. Wherever you are in your practice today is exactly where you need to be.

Once you’ve completed your first class, keep at it. It’s called a “yoga practice” for a reason. Every class offers something new to learn and experiences to expand your path. Just keep moving forward. You’ll be glad you did.

See also So You Want to Learn Yoga, Part 1.